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As Usual, Howard Kurtz Very Nearly Says Something Interesting, Then Restrains Himself From Making So Great An Error | Main | O'Donnell's Kinda Bad Answer On The First Amendment
October 19, 2010

And Howard Kurtz Misses The Point, Besides

I was bothered by Kurtz's last point, and wasn't sure why.

The biggest media blunder, in my view, was the walk-on-water coverage that Obama drew in 2007 and 2008. The only real debate was whether he was more like FDR (Time) or Lincoln (Newsweek). The candidate obviously played a role in creating his own myth, but it was the breathless media that sent expectations soaring into the stratosphere. Once Obama had to grapple with two wars, a crippled economy and reflexive Republican opposition, he had no place to go but down. The press has long since fallen out of love with the president, but the overheated hyperbole did him no favors.

First of all, note how that is put: the overheated hyperbole did him no favors. It's interesting that Kurtz lapses into this sort of Freudian slip where he laments the press' having done Obama a bad turn -- that is, he proceeds (unknown even to himself, I'd bet) from the premise that the press was supposed to prop up Obama, but, by claiming he could walk on water, overpromised, which now leaves their Precious in a bad spot.

Kurtz would claim he's merely being descriptive and not prescriptive; I think he'd be wrong in claiming that. When we're not being careful we give away what we really believe.

But that's minor.

The more important failure of the press wasn't to claim he could do all these amazing things -- okay, that's bad, I grant him -- but to utterly fail to vet him as a candidate.

The public was promised -- by the press, which swore to this on a stack of Bibles -- that Obama was post-partisan. That he was everything good about liberalism mixed with everything good about conservatism. The press allowed him to run both to McCain's left and McCain's right, even on the same issue. Obama, for example, was both more of a terrorist-killing warrior than McCain and also more of a man of peace and soft power; he was both going to raise taxes and lower them.

Part of the public's revolt against Obama is the late-coming realization that he's just a very, very liberal president, and intensely partisan to boot, and not anything at all like the unifying post-partisan post-racial (post-human?) healer the press swore he was.

And this of course was all crystalized in Obama's not-at-all-fateful encounter with Joe the Plumber, a common citizen who dared to ask The One a perfectly legitimate question which the press had not bothered to ask, something along the lines of whether it was in his interest to have his taxes raised.

And Obama was not careful, and gave away what he really thought: We needed to "redistribute the wealth," he said, a central tenet of full-blown socialism.

The press' reaction? Did they inquire further about Obama's socialistic mindset? Look into his membership in the socialist New Party? Ask more questions about the bevy of hard-left radials who were his friends, champions, patrons and even most likely his ghostwriter?

No. They insisted the answer meant nothing, it was a crazy question to begin with, and then intensely vetted.... Joe the Plumber, who wasn't running for anything.

Within two days we found out he wasn't a licensed plumber (as if this means he wasn't a plumber at all), had liens against him, was divorced (wink-wink, we know what that means), etc.

Instead of vetting the man voluntarily seeking the most powerful office in all the world, the media instead chose to fix its full investigatory power upon a plumber who had dared to ask the Little King a question.

And so it was throughout 2008 -- Did Obama's long-time association with racist radical Reverend Wright give any insight into his actual politics? No, the press insisted, it did not. It embargoed the story for a year (despite it being pushed to them by the Democrat Hillary Clinton) and then when they finally broke down and reported it, they proclaimed it no longer a story after a vapid, vacuous speech. (The greatest speech since Lincoln, in their estimation.)

And then anyone who brought the subject up was vetted again, or, not vetted really, just called a racist.

The media refused to look for anything negative in Obama, or even anything neutral -- any policy choice he was pushing that that might not appeal to all voters was ruthlessly blackholed.

But, you know... none of this was intentional. I would certainly not say the media mangled the coverage of the 2008 elections.

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posted by Ace at 01:01 PM

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